For Release April 1, 2003

Spring is in the Air!

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Spring is in the air. You can hear it, you can smell it, you can see it. Just like the rest of nature, all of our human senses are heightened as we move into spring. Therefore many of you are hearing and seeing a lot more in the natural world than usual. Letís examine some of these sights and sounds!

One of the true signs of spring is a woodpecker making a lot of racket on or near your house. In the spring, woodpeckers establish nesting territories. This is the area that they will attract a mate, set up a nest and raise their young. To let all the other woodpeckers know that they have a territory established, they make a noise called drumming. The woodpecker finds locations within its territory that will make a lot of noise which often turns out to be something metal on your house, or an especially resonant piece of wood. Then, often early in the morning, they hammer away very quickly.

They arenít trying to make a hole, they are simply trying to make as much noise as possible. Fortunately, the hormonal urge to do this is quickly replaced by the need to care for eggs and young. Drumming seldom does damage, but it can be very annoying! Going outside and scaring the bird away is one approach. You can also tie pieces of reflective mylar ribbon on the drumming perch. This will sometimes disperse them to some other perch. Tolerance may well be the best approach as drumming will occur over just a few weeks time and then they should stop.

Anyone who spends much time watching cedar trees knows that in the early spring many of the cedar trees turn a very rusty brown. Homeowners often become concerned, at this time, that their trees are dying. That is usually not the case. If you take a close look at these cedars, you will see that the brown is on the very tips of the branches. Further back on the branches there is lots of green foliage. If there isnít lots of green foliage then your cedar really is dying!

As I explained it to one homeowner recently, there are little boy cedar trees and there are little girl cedar trees. The cedar trees are blooming right now. The obvious brown branch tips are actually the male flowers that are releasing lots of pollen right now. The female cedar trees are also in bloom, but the female flowers are virtually invisible, so those trees just look a normal green. If you start looking closely you will see very small branch tips that look burnt, and this is the female blossom. As soon as the trees stop blooming, the males will shed the remains of those blossoms, and new foliage will quickly return the green color we expect. A web page with a series of photos showing these blossoms can be seen at:

Finally, many trees, such as elms and maples, appear to be leafing out right now. In reality, much of this color is from blossoms and seeds, not leaves. With colder weather over the weekend, some of these seeds and flowers may very well have been killed. If so, these seeds and blossoms will fall off and from a distance it will look like your tree just lost its leaves. Not to worry, the trees are still alive and well, leaves will be on their way shortly. Some of the early forsythia and ornamental pears appear to have had blossoms nipped by the weekend temperatures in the lower 20s. So if the blooming seems a little sparser than you expected, blame it on the crazy early spring Kansas weather!


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